Wellness tourism is booming. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the travel sector accounts for well over $500 billion of the world’s wellness economy. The travel industry has responded to our thirst for enhanced R&R with a surge in dedicated hotels, outdoor adventures, retreats, and festivals. More people than ever, nearly 700 million annually — are traveling with the specific goal of taking charge of improving their physical, mental, and social health. If you think about it, that gets down to the fundamentals of what travel is really about, right?
In her latest pocket-sized guide, The Little Book of Mindful Travel: Broaden Your Horizons, Tiddy Rowan coaxes readers to shake off the stress of travel and focus on soaking up the joy of the process. It’s a meaningful blueprint that comes at the right moment, especially for travelers booking trips where well-being is the end-game. There’s no time like the present to chart your next journey. Check out a few of these gem locations and how Rowan’s tips can help you take charge of the ultimate mind/body getaway.
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If you’ve ever had a fear of traveling alone, this is the place to get over it. Travel is something we all want. But we often put it off, because of work, finances or family obligations. Usually, it’s because we are holding back until we can find someone to share the experience with. Rowan cracks that fear open quoting Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” The Netherlands’ capital city is a great place to begin. You’ll spend your days cycling everywhere you go, an essential component of Amsterdam’s character. It’s a beautiful, historic city for first-time solo travelers to easily navigate. Highlights include biking along the city’s canals and through Vondelpark, touring the Portuguese Synagogue, Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk and Van Gogh Museums. If you can swing it, book a room at the historic Conservatorium Hotel. Its Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre is worth making a key component of your stay. This more than 1,600 square foot gym features relaxing spaces where you can practice yoga, Tai-Chi, and yes — meditation. It also has an attached spa and pool. If that’s too much of a splurge (prices are high-end), incorporate a spa day into your trip or split your time between an Airbnb or economy hotel and treat yourself to a night or two at the Conservatorium on the tail-end of your journey.
Familiar places may have special meaning but Rowan suggests you avoid revisiting the past when planning a vacation. “At least once a year go somewhere you have never traveled to before,” Rowan writes. Costa Rica is the perfect place for adventure and it tends to be a lower-cost journey. Beaches, volcanoes, jungle — you will get a massive dose of wellness. I visited Montezuma in the southern part of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula while on a trip to write about Anamaya Resort which hosts a series of surfing and yoga retreats, along with yoga teacher training. You’ll start your day with energetic yoga flows and end it with restorative poses. In between yogic breaths, you’ll find yourself hiking, zip-lining through the forest, swimming under waterfalls and getting acquainted with the surf. Montezuma is a great location for first-time surfers because of calmer ocean water. There’s also nothing more stress-free than finishing your day with an Anamaya tree-house massage in the middle of the jungle.
Barbados wants to use wellness as one of its latest travel draws — as evidenced by testing out its first wellness festival at the end of summer 2017, sponsored by Barbados Tourism Marketing Incorporated. The Caribbean nation is a key location for yoga gurus, stand up paddle boarding, and swimming on its western and southern coasts, along with surfing on the Atlantic side of the island. But it’s also a place where you can practice the balance of simply sitting still without letting feelings of guilt invade your headspace. “Each step or part of the journey is what’s happening in the present moment — the destination is still in the future,” writes Rowan. There’s plenty of activity to engage in, but you can also take time to absorb the sensation of salty air off Bathsheba Beach or the intrigue and bliss of Animal Flower Cave in Saint Lucy. For more zen vibes find a resort or hotel in St. Peter or St. James parishes. If you need to fill your moments with action, book lodgings on the south end of Barbados.
Maui & Kauai, HI
There’s a reason why Hawaii is a dream destination for so many of us, and why some visitors spend a lifetime saving money for the journey. Hawaii’s islands are breathtaking. Follow Rowan’s advice and try taking a periodic timeout on social media shares and viewing experiences from behind a lens. Swim with the turtles at Black Rock Beach in Maui and hike the trails of Kauai. Wellness travel in Hawaii brings enhanced meaning to going on a “spiritual journey.” From fresh seafood to pineapple, the islands naturally eliminate travel food anxiety. As long as you don’t overload on SPAM, you’ll be able to follow Rowan’s practical travel tip of feeding your body with high protein, light meals, healthy snacks and remaining hydrated. You’ll find in Hawaii that “Aloha” is more than a greeting. It’s the spirit of a healthy mind and heart. Search for hotels with “best rate” offerings and specialized wellness programs. The Westin Maui Resort & Spa boasts one of the best fitness studios and guided meditation programs I’ve yet to experience.
Lake Tahoe, CA
If the United States were to designate a capital city based on recreation, it would be here. There’s not a time of year you can travel to Lake Tahoe where it isn’t great to be outdoors from skiing and snowboarding all winter to boat life on the water through the summer months. You can’t spend a moment in Lake Tahoe without feeling mindful vibes. The air smells like butterscotch because of the scent coming from Squaw Valley’s Jeffrey pine trees. Squaw Valley Ski Resort is one of many locations which hosts the Wanderlust multi-day yoga festival during the summer. Because of its popularity, Lake Tahoe is a place to keep the “good travel buddy” rule in mind, even with strangers. “Everyone has their own story, their own journey and their own preoccupations,” writes Rowan. “Allow them space — and courtesy.” This is the perfect location to share mindful wellness experiences with friends and family.
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